Genre: TV series, Drama
Country: United States
Starring: Mike Connors, Gail Fisher, Joseph Campanella, Ward Wood, Robert Reed
Creator: Lalo Schifrin
Run time: 21 hours 18 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD extras: Not much of anything
Related reviews: Mannix Season Two, Mannix Season Three
“Mannix” was a TV show from the 60s and 70s. It seems to be one of those shows that was a success in its time, but it really doesn’t hold up today. You see, it’s a detective show. And there have been so many detective movies over the years, and detective TV shows, that for a film or show to cut through and maintain any kind of relevance in today’s world, it has to be something really special. Think of Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, or Eastwood as Dirty Harry, or yes, even Peter Falk as Columbo. Each of those characters was so unique and so interesting that people will watch Columbo, Sam Spade, and Harry Callaghan for years to come. Season One of Mannix comes out today, courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. But I would recommend picking up the Dirty Harry Ultimate Collection instead, it also comes out today. And comes with a free police badge!
Detective Joe Mannix is played by Mike Connors, who does a good job. He has a Johnny Cash late-60s haircut, and looks and talks a lot like the Man In Black. He is tough and implacable, and direct, and determined and smart. And he always gets his man. But then, haven’t we seen that a thousand times before? He’s not as implacable as Sam Spade, not as tough as Harry Callaghan, less determined than Philip Marlowe, and not as smart as Columbo. So he exists on this second-tier, forgotten rung of the Private Eye ladder from that era, who just doesn’t measure up to Mike Hammer, let alone the truly classic detective characters on TV and in film. No knock against Connors here, he was just written that way.
And it’s the writing that makes this show seem terribly dated when you watch it now. Mannix works for a company called “Intertect”, a massive private-detective company. Which was something that apparently existed in the sixties. There are virtually no cops in the shows, and although there are very often some heinous crimes, like murder, Mannix doesn’t call the cops for backup, he calls his boss. And regardless of how many bad guys there are, his boss showing up with a gun forces them all to drop their guns. Which means that Mannix and the boss, played by Joseph Campanella, are so bad-ass that the two of them are able to surround and outnumber ten bad guys at a time. And “Intertect”? Sounds a lot like a company name that is created for a punchline in a modern comedy. Like “Initech” in Office Space. And the bad guys always come from something that is cryptically called “the syndicate”. It is never explained what this “syndicate” actually is, we just take for granted it is a large and powerful evil criminal enterprise. But then, Joe Mannix is not James Bond.
In every episode there is a hot babe. Almost always a blonde. And in every episode, there is a femme fatale character. Usually the blonde. But Mannix is usually too smart and perceptive to fall for their traps and charms – I guess because he saw the exact same woman every week for seven years. Your radar would be up after that. The opening and closing credits are irritating, with this mosaic-style fade-cut where a bunch of squares appear on the screen to make a big picture. Which would be fine if they didn’t do it every single commercial break as well. And the theme music is sparse, and really short, which would also be fine if it was just for the opening and closing credits. But they use it as a sting, as a car-chase theme, as dramatic pause music – always the exact same tune! Through the whole show! It’s annoying!
The episodes have titles that are hit-and-miss, some of them hilarious. Skid Marks on A Dry Run. Warning: Live Blueberries. Coffin For A Clown. Funny stuff. There is always a bevy of hot women walking around Intertect, showing up as secretaries and office runners and so forth. Which makes me think the casting agent for this show was getting laid a lot on the side by promising walk-on roles to every hot woman who crossed his path. And even if the bad guys are NOT from “the syndicate”, they still seem to have hired thugs for some reason. All this means that every single episode of Mannix is exactly the same as every other episode of Mannix. And that makes the first season tough to watch all the way through – 24 one-hour episodes, the main difference in each being that the hot blonde is played by a different actress.
Now, there is one awfully cool special feature on the DVD worth mentioning. Clips from the “Hard-Boiled Murder” episode of the TV show Diagnosis Murder, where the entire cast of Mannix was reunited for the show. And by that I mean Connors, Campanella and Peggy Fair, who played Mannix’s secretary. One of the first African-American women to have a regular role on a major TV series, Fair was very good, but she didn’t appear until Season Two. So really, there is almost no reason to pick up Mannix Season One.